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Protections Delayed for Survivors of Domestic Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2017
Contact: Michelle Nicolet
mnicolet@povertylaw.org, 312.368.2675

New Report Urges Compliance with the Violence Against Women Act by the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program

(Chicago, IL) Nearly 20 people per minute—more than 10 million per year—are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking have all too often lost their housing or been denied housing due to the violence perpetrated against them. In response, the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted to provide survivors with strong housing protections and to prohibit housing providers from using incidents of violence as grounds for evicting the victim. VAWA now applies to most federal housing programs, including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program operated by the U.S. Department of Treasury, which funds 90% of new affordable housing in the country through its Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.

Even though the 2013 VAWA reauthorization explicitly required that LIHTC providers comply with VAWA, the Department of the Treasury has issued no regulations or guidance on implementation for the LIHTC program. Protections Delayed: State Housing Finance Agency Compliance With The Violence Against Women Act, a new report issued by a national coalition of advocates for survivors and affordable housing, finds that the inaction on the part of the Department of the Treasury has led to significant state-by-state variation in the implementation of VAWA protections in the LIHTC program. This in turn has a substantial impact on level of protection afforded to survivors. “The Congress did its part to protect survivors by passing the 2013 reauthorization of VAWA—now the Department of the Treasury needs to effectively implement this law,” said Kate Walz, Director of Housing Justice at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

Although some Housing Finance Agencies, such as those in Pennsylvania and Illinois, have taken proactive steps to educate housing providers and tenants about the rights of victims and to monitor provider compliance, many have failed to act entirely, citing the need for further federal guidance. “This report underscores the dire need for further guidance from the Department of the Treasury so that survivors who live in or are in need of tax credit housing are safe,” said Monica McLaughlin, Deputy Director of Public Policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.  

The report also provides a blueprint for the ways in which State Housing Finance Agencies can—and should—take independent action to implement VAWA and protect survivors from violations of their rights under federal law. 

A full copy of the report is available at http://povertylaw.org/protections-delayed.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nationwide, non-partisan organization of more than one million members dedicated to preserving the Constitution and civil and human rights. The ACLU Women’s Rights Project, founded in 1972 by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has been a leader in efforts to eliminate the barriers to women’s full equality in American society. These efforts include challenging discrimination against victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, with a particular area of focus on advancing survivors’ rights to obtain and maintain secure housing. The ACLU has litigated cases on behalf of survivors and advocated for policies at the federal, state, and local levels, including supporting the housing protections of the Violence Against Women Act, first enacted in 2005. www.aclu.org

For 100 years, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid has served the residents of Hennepin County. In 1974, it expanded its service area to include the St. Cloud area and in 1979 added the Willmar area. It now serves 20 counties in central Minnesota from the South Dakota to the Wisconsin border, providing free civil legal services to people and families with low incomes and/or disabilities. Legal Aid’s Disability Law Center is the Protection and Advocacy System for Minnesota. As such it provides free civil legal services to children and adults with disabilities throughout the state of Minnesota. Today, 60 Legal Aid lawyers along with 29 legal advocates and assistants and 36 administrative and support staff help more than 10,000 individuals and families annually meet essential needs. www.mylegalaid.org

The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) is the voice in Washington for the 56 state and territorial sexual assault coalitions and 1,300 local programs working to end sexual violence and support all survivors. www.endsexualviolence.org

National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a social change organization, is dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists. NNEDV is the membership organization of the 56 state and territorial domestic violence and dual domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions. Ensuring that survivors can maintain and access safe housing is a priority for NNEDV. www.nnedv.org

The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) is a private, non-profit, national housing and legal advocacy center established in 1968. Our mission is to advance housing justice for poor people by increasing and preserving the supply of decent, affordable housing; expanding and enforcing low-income tenants’ and homeowners’ rights; and increasing housing opportunities for historically marginalized groups of people. NHLP has worked with thousands of housing providers, advocates, and attorneys throughout the country on issues involving the housing rights of survivors of domestic and sexual violence. For technical assistance regarding the Violence Against Women Act’s housing provisions, please contact Karlo Ng at kng@nhlp.org. www.nhlp.org

Regional Housing Legal Services (RHLS) is a nonprofit law firm with unique expertise in affordable, sustainable housing and its related components — community and economic development, utility matters and preservation of home ownership. RHLS provides innovative project and policy solutions that help create sustainable communities offering decent, safe and affordable housing for lower-income Pennsylvanians. www.rhls.org

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law (Shriver Center) provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. We specialize in practical solutions. We advocate for and serve clients directly, while also building the capacity of the nation’s legal aid providers to advance justice and opportunity for their clients. www.povertylaw.org

 

 

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